03:41pm Wednesday 16 August 2017

Larger food pack sizes increase consumer estimates of portion sizes

Larger food pack sizes can increase consumer estimates of portion sizes finds a new study completed by the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) and the University of Surrey.

The results of the study, published in the journal Appetite, found that crisps, chocolate, lasagne and cola type drinks all showed evidence of increased portion size estimates when participants were presented with larger pack sizes. This was also observed for multiple food items such as chicken nuggets, sweets and biscuits where participants were asked how many items make up a portion.

Our results indicate a small but significant ‘pack size effect’ across all countries and for different types of food and drinks. If people were to actually consume the portions they estimate in this study, there would be a substantial increase in energy intake in each of these eating occasions,” said Dr Sophie Hieke, Head of Consumer Insights at EUFIC.

The study calls for more research to better understand how people estimate portions for example by studying whether people see portions and portions mentioned on food packs as a realistic amount of food or drink someone is likely to consume in one sitting as opposed to something someone should consume in one sitting.

Answering this question would give us insight into the conceptualisation of food portions in people’s minds and the rationale behind the ratings people give in portion size experiments,” said Professor Monique Raats, Director of the University of Surrey’s Food, Consumer Behaviour and Health Research Centre.

The study, which was carried out on a sample of 13,177 participants in six European countries: France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK, found gender to be an important factor. Despite both men and women reporting larger portion sizes overall, men presented a larger portion size increase and were more affected by larger pack sizes. Differences were also observed between countries involved in the study even though portion sizes increased overall in every country when presented with larger pack sizes. The participants from Sweden, Poland and Germany indicated a larger portion size increase compared to those in Spain, France and the UK when presented with the same pack size.

Participants who regarded portion information on food and drink packages to be irrelevant displayed a tendency to estimate larger portion sizes compared with those who regarded the portion information on packaging as relevant. Age also played a role; increased age was associated with smaller portion size estimates.

The authors note that the study did not measure actual intake and that further research would be needed to test whether the increases in portion sizes do lead to the predicted increase in energy intakes over time and whether or not that effect is compensated and indeed results in an actual increased intake.

Notes to editors

EUFIC media contact:
Sofia Kuhn
Media Relations Office at the European Food Information Council (EUFIC)
Sofia.kuhn@eufic.org
+32 2506 8989

University of Surrey media contact:
Peter La
Media Relations Office at the University of Surrey
p.la@surrey.ac.uk
+44 1483 689191

Reference

Hieke, S, Palascha, A, Jola, C, Wills, J, Raats, M (2015). The pack size effect: influence on consumer perceptions of portion sizes. Online preview: Appetite. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2015.09.025

About EUFIC

The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) is a non-profit organisation which communicates science-based information on nutrition and health, food safety and quality, to help consumers to be better informed when choosing a well-balanced, safe and healthful diet.

EUFIC research is conducted and written up in conjunction with academic experts for submission to and publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Other content produced by EUFIC is reviewed by a scientific advisory board and editorial board of academics before publication. EUFIC receives funding from companies in the European food and drink sector, and from the European Commission on a project basis.

For more information about EUFIC visit the homepage.

Biography Dr. Sophie Hieke

Dr Sophie Hieke is Head of Consumer Insights at the European Food Information Council (EUFIC). She is also the Principal Coordinator of the EU FP7 funded project CLYMBOL – Role of health claims and symbols in consumer behaviour. She is the lead author in this study.

Sophie studied Business Administration at Munich School of Management, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and Universidad Castilla-La Mancha, Toledo, followed by a Master of Business Research and a PhD at the Institute for Market-based Management. Her main areas of research include quantitative methods and experimental research on consumer behaviour. She is a visiting researcher at the University of Surrey as well as a research fellow at the Munich Centre of Health Sciences and the Center for Marketing and Public Policy Research at Villanova Business School, Philadelphia.

Sophie has published in several journals including the Journal of Consumer Affairs, Appetite, Food Policy, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Public Health Nutrition. She was recently awarded “Best Paper of the Year” by the American Council of Consumer Interest, ACCI, in conjunction with the Journal of Consumer Affairs. She also serves as a reviewer for several high-ranking scientific journals and teaches at the Munich Business School.

About the University of Surrey

The University of Surrey is one of the UK’s leading professional, scientific and technological universities with a world class research profile and a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Ground-breaking research at the University is bringing direct benefit to all spheres of life – helping industry to maintain its competitive edge and creating improvements in the areas of health, medicine, space science, the environment, communications, defence and social policy. Programmes in science and technology have gained widespread recognition and it also boasts flourishing programmes in dance and music, social sciences, management and languages and law. In addition to the campus on 150 hectares just outside Guildford, Surrey, the University also owns and runs the Surrey Research Park, which provides facilities for 110 companies employing 2,750 staff.

Food, Consumer Behaviour and Health Research Centre

The major driving force behind the University of Surrey’s Food Consumer Behaviour and Health Research Centre is the need to translate basic biological knowledge on food safety, diet and health in order to facilitate the improvement of people’s lives. The Centre’s research is wide ranging in terms of topics being addressed (e.g. food choice, policy development, food labelling), and methodologies used (e.g. qualitative, quantitative, stakeholder consultation). Through a variety of nationally and internationally funded projects the Centre’s research seek to understand how to change food-related behaviour; communicate effectively about food-related risks and benefits; and engage the public in food-related scientific debate and policy decision making.

Biography Professor Monique Raats

Professor Monique Raats is Director of the University of Surrey’s Food, Consumer Behaviour and Health Research Centre. She previously worked at the Institute of Food Research, Health Education Authority and University of Oxford. Since her arrival at the University of Surrey in 2000, she has played a central role in securing research funding for both national and European research projects. She has published over 95 peer-reviewed papers, 19 book chapters, and co-edited two books (The Psychology of Food Choice; Food for the Ageing Population). She is a founding member of the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. In 2011 Monique joined the UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and is also a member of its Subgroup on Maternal and Child Nutrition. Currently she is a partner in the FLICC project that is conducting a pilot randomised control trial on front of pack labelling and the EU-funded CLYMBOL project that studies health claims and consumer behaviour. She currently also coordinates the EU-funded REDICLAIM project, which investigates how EU legislation impacts on the substantiation and use of “reduction of disease risk” claims on food and drinks.

ABOUT EUFIC

The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) is a non-profit organisation which communicates science-based information on nutrition and health, food safety and quality, to help consumers to be better informed when choosing a well-balanced, safe and healthful diet.


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